Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Herbarium #3: A Starry Wreath for Emily Dickinson

Becky Brown, Herbarium #3 Starry Wreath for Emily Dickinson

Amherst College Collection
Poet Emily Dickinson (1830 - 1886) when she was about 16

Many women posed with a favored book, often a Bible.
But Emily was not known for her religiosity. Note the flower
in her hand. Was the book her bound herbarium?

Emily entered a local school, the Amherst Academy, at age 9 in 1840 and graduated in 1847. The Dickinsons were strong educational supporters and Emily was proud of her education:
"[Sister] Viny and I both go to school this term. We have a very fine school. There are 63 scholars. I have four studies. They are Mental Philosophy, Geology, Latin, and Botany. How large they sound, don’t they? I don’t believe you have such big studies.” Emily, 1845 to friend Abiah Root.
Her 66-page Herbarium bound in green is at the Houghton Library.

Starry Wreath by Becky Collis

While at the Academy Emily kept a Herbarium, dated by Harvard's Houghton Library as having been assembled during her school years. Was the daguerreotype portrait above made as a celebration of the end of her schooling with the book a tangible souvenir?

Harvard's Houghton Library Collection
Emily about 9, painted by A.O. Bullard

Almira Hart Lincoln Phelps (1793-1884)

One botany text book at the Academy was Almira Lincoln Phelps's Familiar Lectures on Botany with instructions for teachers as well as students. Phelps's book, originally published in 1829, went through
about 40 editions. She was educator Emma Hart Willard's sister.

The 1854 edition

Starry Wreath by Denniele Bohannon

I've looked at hers and other botany textbooks hoping to find illustrations relating to the quilt blocks in the eight similar quilts but no luck so far. Our unknown teacher probably drew her own.

The Block

Edge of sampler made by an unknown quiltmaker, published in 
Border to Border: Quilts and Quiltmakers of Montana

Reconstructed wreath from the edge of the 1850
Goodrich Family Quilt.

Anemone undulata from the Dickinson Herbarium

Pattern for the full Starry Wreath

This wreath with five-lobed starry flowers is set as a half a wreath
 in several of the eight mid-19th-century Herbarium quilts.

Variations in the edge blocks that fill out the on-point set

The quilt above from an unknown source includes wreaths cut in half lining the edges---most with the 5-lobed floral. The Starry Wreath is reconstructed above in our pattern as a full wreath and below as  the half wreath.


Our set for 13 on-point blocks includes 8 half-blocks. 19th-century quiltmakers were quite inclined to make a full block and cut it in half when they needed a half-block. This seems unwise as you are losing fabric in the seam allowances along the cut. Better to plan ahead and make 8 half-blocks. Use the starry floral for the 4 corners.

Further Reading

See a facsimile of  Emily Dickinson's Herbarium. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2006. Or view it digitally. The library also has some unbound, unlabeled pages.$30i

Read more about Almira Hart Lincoln Phelps:


Linda said...

Lovely! Thank you so much!

matty said...

One gorgeous quilt and I love the new banner. A Lot.